In the first Committee of the Whole Council meeting with the new Council, questions by the Mayor and Councillors raised some key issues. In a delegation, Carol Leighton said that the Albert Street Transit Shelter is occupied by drug users; in another delegation, Dave Tunstead said that “free” downtown parking is not free; both Mayor Lucas Cleveland and Councillor Miriam Mutton asked about the new stormwater fee; the Mayor asked about costs for the Harbour so profitability could be determined and Director Geerts wanted immediate approval to start on Harbour repairs with a new estimated total cost of $15M to $20M. Council also dealt with several other issues – a busy meeting. I will attempt to cover some of them in my summary below.
The Transit shelter on Albert Street seems to have become a place where homeless drug users shoot up and where they congregate. There is also alcohol consumed there. Carol Leighton lives nearby and has made numerous calls to By-Law enforcement and Police – they respond but once they leave, the offenders return; there was even a sexual assault reported on December 7 in the afternoon. There has been damage to the shelter and washrooms and although Staff say they are “working with Police” on it, the problem continues. Carol made some suggestions including that the shelter be locked when not supervised. She commented that taxpayers are paying for illegal activity and for repairs to damage. Brent Larmer commented that attending to this issue means that By-Law officers have less time for other items – there have been 31 calls for them on this issue in the last 37 days.
Dave Tunstead said that parking downtown in December has been promoted as free – but it’s not. Only the first hour of on-street parking is free. Miriam Mutton moved that this be extended to January 1 and this passed but will not be in effect until ratified at the regular Council meeting on December 19. An attempt by Councillor Aaron Burchat to suspend the Council rules so that it could be in effect immediately was defeated – it needs a two thirds majority but only Miriam and Adam supported his motion. The result being 3-3 – not two thirds – so the motion to suspend was defeated and free all day parking for the Holiday season will not take effect until December 19. [Text in italics is a correction]
As described in a previous post, the Town of Cobourg plans to move funding of stormwater management from the tax levy to a fee that depends on the type and size of property (see this report). When this came up for approval, Mayor Cleveland asked: “Is there an incentive to reduce stormwater, and if not, why not?” In response Director Laurie Wills said that other larger municipalities take account of measures taken by property owners but that Cobourg does not have the resources to do this. Councillor Mutton expressed concern that larger residential properties pay more but would have more area to absorb runoff. Director Wills said that this was allowed for in the rates(!). And when asked would Walmart pay less, the response was that residents pay less although that’s relative to what they pay now via the tax levy. Mayor Cleveland asked what assurance is there that the tax hit would be less? Director Wills said that the recent average amount of $400K would be transferred from taxes to the stormwater fee but there are no actual line items showing the change. Hopefully this will be clear when we see the budgets at the budget meetings in January (See resources for dates).
Also the subject of a previous post, Mayor Cleveland asked for harbour costs so profit can be determined. Director Geerts responded that although most revenue is now in, not all costs have yet been recorded. These will be available in a future report.
Also discussed was the work required to repair the harbour – this will be the subject of a future post on this news blog.
Mayor Lucas Cleveland plus Councillors Miriam Mutton and Aaron Burchat were particularly active in asking questions and making motions although new Councillor Randy Barber was not shy. Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty was absent. I also noticed that the Mayor was mostly referred to as “Mr. Mayor” instead of “Your Worship”.